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Poll: Kirkpatrick has a shot at unseating McCain
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Poll: Kirkpatrick has a shot at unseating McCain

  • U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, left (photo by Camaron Stevenson/Cronkite News), and Sen. John McCain (photo by Angie Schuster/Cronkite News)

The general election is months away, and Sen. John McCain needs to get past a primary challenge, but an early poll shows a statistical tie between the incumbent Republican and Democratic challenger Ann Kirkpatrick. The poll tightened to just a one-point lead for McCain, down from six last November.

The independent poll found that of the Republicans vying with McCain for a spot on the November ballot, only former state lawmaker Kelli Ward has significant support — but she trails with just 11 percent. But McCain isn't walking away with the primary nod, despite his name recognition and massive campaign warchest. With 50 percent of Arizona Republicans support him, a GOP challenger has room to maneuver, though McCain "remains comfortably ahead of would-be challengers," pollster Earl de Berge said.

Kirkpatrick has 37 percent support among all voters, up from 31 percent in November, according to the poll by the Behavior Research Center of Arizona. McCain has 38 percent, up from 37 in the last poll.

With a 4-point margin of error, that means the Democratic congresswoman, who's leaving her CD1 seat to challenge the five-term senator, is in a statistical "dead heat."

More from de Berge:

The improvement in Kirkpatrick’s vote appears to trace significantly to her growing popularity with Hispanics, rural and younger voters. Currently,
McCain is losing a fifth of the GOP vote to Kirkpatrick and 40 percent of the Independent vote.

The lack of surety about how they may vote in a general election remains surprisingly wide spread, affecting 26 percent of Democrats, 19 percent of Republicans and fully 30 percent of Independents.

Ann Kirkpatrick is as yet not as well-known to Arizona voters as is John McCain, but as voters become more aware of her, she seems to be gaining some ground. This momentum may continue for her if she continues to take early opportunities to elevate awareness among voters of her platform and background, rather than waiting until after the primary or after the powerful and well-funded campaigns of McCain and GOP-leaning super pacts start to run commercials to define her in negative ways. There can be little doubt that McCain will be well-funded and he has proven many times that he is a skilled and articulate candidate.

Kirkpatrick has gained a leg up among Hispanic voters: Kirkpatrick is currently attracting 49 percent of that vote while McCain has 32 percent. This is a significant improvement for her from November when she appealed to only 33 percent of Hispanics.

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